The GMAT is a standardized exam that people all around the world take every year. A good GMAT score can help you gain admission to an elite business school, and admission to an elite business school opens doors for you. It can improve the odds of having a more successful career. As a result, there are countless GMAT test prep courses on the market, all designed to help students get the best score they possibly can. These resources range from books and pre-recorded videos to live online classes and in-person training sessions. If you want to maximize your GMAT score, you’ll need to get a GMAT test prep course. So, I’ll discuss your options to help you find the right one for you.
Deciding how to approach your GMAT studies can be very difficult. On the one hand, you may already be familiar with many of the topics on the GMAT. If you are, all you may need is a self-help book that can help you brush up on topics you are less familiar with. On the other hand, you can leverage in-class or online help from professionals to customize your learning and improve your score in a shorter period of time.
Either way, there are both advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. The approach you adopt depends on a number of factors, including your test time frame, budget, your ability to create and stick to a schedule, and other personal factors that will vary from person to person.
Professional prep courses provide highly organized and structured learning environments. In most cases, these courses pair you with a facilitator (which can be a software program, an online instructor, or an in-person instructor) who designs your course for you. They do this using automated testing tools that identify your strengths and weaknesses based on diagnostic tests. The facilitator then determines the topics and time frames within which you need to focus your efforts.
Live review classes make learning easier by clearly outlining and providing to you whatever you need. Furthermore, study plans created by people with successful track records in this very field (ie. a GMAT instructor who very likely aced the test themselves) are a huge plus as well. There are many instructional approaches that the average student often doesn’t even think of. Conversely, facilitators can help you do away with ineffective learning or study approaches that you may have by introducing you to more effective and proven strategies.
Also related to structure, it is easier to study when you have someone there to guide you, even if you already know the basics of what you need to do. Think of consulting. Business managers, for the most part, are the experts in their fields. What do they need problem-solving consultants for? Because the consultants, like a personal trainer, can outline things for the manager to do in a consistent fashion, even things that the manager already knows are important. In the same way, your GMAT instructor can keep you on your toes and can help you stick to a proven study regimen and routine.
Virtually every live GMAT review service employs tutors who took and aced the GMAT exam themselves. Your tutor can provide you with invaluable tips, suggestions, and guidance for overcoming whatever personal or scholastic obstacle you may be facing during your prep for the GMAT.
All of the better prep classes, such as Kaplan’s GMAT Prep, offer 5 or more full-length GMAT tests so that you can really hone your skills and get into the groove of taking the exam before you actually take a live GMAT test.
Live GMAT review is generally very costly, with prices ranging from $500 to $3,000 for a comprehensive review course.
You can only access tutors or teachers for specific amounts of time. Online videos are available whenever you need them, but access to tutors in person or via chat or message is often restricted.
Learning in a classroom with other learners may, in fact, inhibit your learning, if you are not comfortable with learning in a group.
You may face technical issues such as internet connectivity issues or video loading issues while trying to access review material during your scheduled study periods.
In self-study, you generally purchase a prep book, look up free video tutorials, and create a study plan and schedule of your own, all on your own. You can pick and choose which topics to focus on and which ones to simply review, and you can study the way you are comfortable – whether by making flashcards, using online resources, working with a friend, or using whatever form of study suits you best.
People only really learn when they are motivated to do so. This is true whether you’re studying with texts, videos, or in a class. Some people learn better on their own than if they use a tutor or if they are made to follow a certain structure created by a GMAT professional.
Live GMAT review requires you to cover whatever you need to cover when the material is presented to you. Alternatively, you have to access it when you are given access to it. You can spend as much time as you want on topics of your choice when you study on your own.
All you really need for self-study is a self-help book. These books cover all of the topics in the GMAT. Once you have it, you are good to go. You just need to get through each topic and each section on your own. Do so in a steady fashion right up until your scheduled exam date.
As with live GMAT review, self-study also has a number of flaws, including:
Consider the following before deciding whether self-help or live review is better for you.
Your answers to these questions should help you decide between live review or self-study. The best live review classes, such as Kaplan’s and Manhattan Prep, are good options to consider. They provide learners with diverse study modes and options. They also provide tiered packages that fit the budget of most students.
If you can set up a study plan and follow it, you may be able to study on your own. You’ll need to assess your own strengths and weaknesses based on your performance on practice tests. But if you can’t, there’s no shame. The prep programs we’ve reviewed for you will definitely prepare you. So, check out our reviews, as they should help clear your mind about which program will best meet your needs.
Saad is a GMAT teacher and mentor. As a member of the I Pass Team led by Stephanie Ng, Saad is our expert on all things GMAT!